- Symphony No. 8 (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 is a
symphonyin four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethovenin 1812. Beethoven fondly referred to it as "my little Symphony in F", distinguishing it from his Sixth Symphony, a longer work also in F. [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5485221]
The Eighth Symphony is generally light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places is cheerfully loud, with many accented notes. Various passages in the symphony are heard by some listeners to be musical jokes. [Some instances given by Hopkins (1981; 224, 232, 233-4, 236-7) are: 1st mvt. bars 36-37 (bassoon mimicry), the "breaking of the metronome" passage at end of the second movement, the shift of the minuet into 2/4 time, and the hesitancy in the last movement about whether the exposition will be repeated or not.] As with various other Beethoven works such as the Opus 27 piano sonatas, the symphony deviates from Classical tradition in making the last movement the weightiest of the four.
Composition and premiere
The work was begun in the summer of 1812, immediately after the completion of the Seventh Symphony [Hopkins 1981, 221] . At the time Beethoven was 41 years old. As
Antony Hopkinshas noted, the cheerful mood of the work betrays nothing of the grossly unpleasant events that were taking place in Beethoven's life at the time, which involved his interference in his brother Johann's love life. [For details see Hopkins (1981, 221).] The work took Beethoven only four months to complete. [Hopkins 1981, 221] Unusually, he attached no dedication to the completed work.
The premiere took place on
February 27, 1814, at a concert at which the mighty Seventh Symphony (which had been premiered two months earlier) was also played. Beethoven was growing increasingly deaf at the time, but nevertheless led the premiere. Reportedly, "the orchestra largely ignored his ungainly gestures and followed the principal violinist instead" [cite web
title=Welcome to Carnegie Hall (program notes)
Critics immediately noted that the Eighth did not reach the heights of its predecessor, launching a long tradition of complaining that Eighth Symphony is not something different (more heroic, more emotive) from what it is.Fact|date=April 2008 However, many listeners seem to be able to enjoy the symphony anyway, and it appears frequently today on concert programs as well as on recordings. When asked by his pupil
Carl Czernywhy the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied "because the Eighth is so much better." [Steinberg, Michael. "The Symphony: a listeners guide". p. 44-47. Oxford University Press, 1995.]
The Eighth Symphony consists of four movements:
# Allegro vivace e con brio
# Tempo di Menuetto
# Allegro vivace
It is approximately 26 minutes in duration.
This movement is in the home key of F major and is in fast 3/4 time. As with most of Beethoven's first movements of this period, it is written in
sonata form, including a fairly substantial coda. As Antony Hopkinshas noted, [Hopkins (1981, 222)] the movement is slightly unusual among Beethoven's works in that it reaches its dramatic climax not during the development section, but at the onset of the recapitulation. To this end, the concluding bars of the development form a huge crescendo, and the return of the opening bars is marked "fff" (fortississimo), which rarely appears in Beethoven's works, but has precedents in the 6th and 7th Symphonies. This extravagance is made up for however, in the quiet closing measures of the movement.
The opening theme is in three sections of four bars each, with the pattern "forte"-"piano"-"forte". At the onset of the recapitulation, the theme is made more emphatic by omitting the middle four bars. [Hopkins (1981, 222)]
This movement is an affectionate parody of the
metronome, which had only recently been invented (or more accurately, merely improved) by Beethoven's friend Johann Maelzel. Machine-created rhythm had already been parodied by Haydn in his "Clock" Symphony; Beethoven pursued the same impulse for the faster rhythm of the new metronome.
The metronome parody starts at the very beginning of the movement with even staccato chords in 16th notes (semiquavers) played by the wind instruments, and a basic 16th note rhythm continues fairly steadily through the piece. The tempo is unusually fast for a symphonic "slow movement".
The key is B flat major, the
subdominantof F, and the organization is what Charles Rosenhas called "slow movement sonata form"; that is, at the end of the exposition there is no development section, but only a simple modulation back to B flat for the recapitulation; this also may be described as sonatinaform.
The second subject includes a motif of very rapid 64th notes (hemidemisemiquavers), suggesting perhaps a rapidly unwinding spring in a not-quite-perfected metronome. This motif is played by the whole orchestra at the end of the coda.
A nostalgic invocation of the old
minuet, obsolete by the time this symphony was composed. (A similar nostalgic minuet appears in the Piano Sonata Opus 31 no. 3, from 1802). The style of Beethoven's minuet is not particularly close to its 18th century models, as retains a rather coarse, thumping rhythm. Thus, for example, after the initial upbeat Beethoven places the dynamic indication " sforzando" ("sf") on each of the next five beats. This makes the minuet stylistically close to the other movements of the symphony, which likewise rely often on good-humored, thumping accents.
Like most minuets, this one is written in
ternary form, with a contrasting trio section containing prized solos for horns and clarinet. The clarinet solo is of significant importance in that it was the first major example of a solo clarinet playing a written G6.Fact|date=May 2008
This is the most substantial movement, in very fast tempo. [Hopkins (1981, 234) notes that the music is "marked
allegro vivacebut usually played presto".] It is written in a version of sonata rondo formin which the opening material reappears in three places: the start of the development section, the start of the recapitulation, and about halfway through the coda. This is the first symphonic movement in which the timpaniare tuned in octaves, foreshadowing the similar octave-F tuning in the scherzo of the Ninth Symphony. [Hopkins (1981, 236)]
The fourth movement imitates the first in that the move to the second subject first adopts the "wrong" key, then moves to the normal key (exposition: dominant, recapitulation: tonic) after a few measures. [Hopkins (1981, 236)]
The coda section is felt by many listeners to be extraordinary, being one of the most substantial and elaborate codas in all of Beethoven's works. [Extensive discussion of the coda is given in
Charles Rosen's "Sonata Forms" (1988). Hopkins (1981, 238) calls it "magnificent" and suggests it is too substantial to be referred to by the term "coda".] The coda has two particularly striking events. The harmonically out-of-place loud C# that interrupts the main theme in the exposition and recapitulation finally gets an "explanation": it turns out to be the rootof the dominant chord of the remote key of F# minor, and the main theme is loudly played in this key. [Hopkins (1981, 239)] A few measures later, there is a stunning modulation in which this key is "hammered down" by a semitone, arriving instantaneously at the home key of F major. [Hopkins (1981, 240)]
The symphony ends in good humor on a very long passage of loud tonic harmony.
*Link to download music - [http://www.musopen.com/view.php?type=piece&id=110 Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93] recording from
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5485221 Complete Performance By The Philadelphia Orchestra]
* [http://www.proarte.org/notes/beethov2.htm Program notes by Steven Ledbetter] .
*The [http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/baj2627/index.html score] of the Eighth Symphony has been posted by the [http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/symphonic.html William and Gayle Cook Music Library] at Indiana University.
*The [http://www.speech.kth.se/music/ Music Acoustics Group] at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) has studied the differences between musical rhythm as created by musicians vs. metronome rhythm; for discussion and audio demonstrations consult their page on [http://www.speech.kth.se/music/performance/performance_rules.html Rules for Music Performance] .
*Analysis of the [http://www.all-about-beethoven.com/symphony8.html Beethoven Symphony No. 8] on the [http://www.all-about-beethoven.com All About Ludwig van Beethoven] page.
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